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You are here: Home Bulletins 2011 Fall 2011 Bulletin Holiday Buying Guide

Holiday Buying Guide

by Joshua Gay Contributions Published on Nov 28, 2011 05:05 PM
With the holidays fast approaching, we thought a holiday buyer's guide was appropriate. People often buy expensive electronic gadgets as gifts, but many of these gadgets are bad for your freedom.

Here's our guide to the best and worst gifts this season:

Video games --- With all of the big game console manufacturers supporting and using more Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) in their products, there aren't good options here. But in particular, avoid Sony, since they have been aggressively prosecuting users (, and Nintendo, since they claim the right to remotely "brick" some devices (

Blu-Ray --- Avoid Blu-Ray discs. They cannot be used with free software, and buying them is supporting Old Media's latest system for controlling every step of what users can do with media they buy.

Music players --- For music this season, don't look to Apple for anything; all their portable music players support DRM and many devices refuse to work on GNU/Linux without serious tinkering or jailbreaking.

Cars --- If you're thinking of buying a new car, be sure to avoid cars with the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch software. Glitches in this proprietary software have led Ford to issue an update. This means the car can be infected with malicious software and is best avoided.

Smartphones --- Replicant, the project to produce a fully free distribution of Android recently added more phones to its list of supported models. Here at the FSF, we scored a bounty of HTC Dream phones, and many of us use them as our day-to-day cell phones. These phones are still problematic, because they include a proprietary firmware that could monitor all activity on the phone, but the ability to have a fully free application environment is a great step forward.

Ebook readers --- All the ebook readers sold through Amazon and Barnes & Noble use DRM and proprietary software. Even if a user manages to only use these devices to read DRM-free materials, purchase of the device includes licenses for DRM and proprietary software.

Laptops and Desktops --- There are a couple of companies who will sell you a computer with a fully-free GNU/Linux distribution preinstalled. Some of these companies even donate a small amount of money to the FSF. One such company is Los Alamos Computers,

Instead of buying gifts that reward companies who restrict our freedom, consider making a donation to a charity that fights for your freedom -- other than ourselves, we're especially fond of the work done by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, and Public Knowledge.

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